The Effects of Observed Friendship Formation on Group Level Peer Experiences: A Study of Behaviorally Inhibited Preschooler

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Early social withdrawal places children at a greater risk for later internalizing disorders and peer difficulties. However, positive friendships can serve as a buffer against this trajectory. Currently, very little is known about if friendships develop between preschool aged withdrawn children, and how this affects their group level peer processes. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether socially withdrawn children who made a friend demonstrated gains in social skills in their preschool classrooms over an 8-week period during which they had participated in an intervention designed to increase social interaction and decrease social reticence. Overall, the children who made a friend over the intervention period had less observed reticent behavior and more prosocial behavior in their preschool classrooms both before and after the intervention period. These children entered the intervention with more advanced social skills and were able to utilize them to develop a meaningful friendship.